31 Aug 2009

NZ studies centre in London under threat of closure

4:04 pm on 31 August 2009

There are indications the London-based Centre for New Zealand Studies could be closed in the near future.

Emails seen by Radio New Zealand quote plans by the University of London's Birkbeck College to formally withdraw its involvement with the centre by November this year.

The centre, which opened in 2007, was heralded by former Prime Minister Helen Clark as a unique academic facility focusing on the country's culture, identity and history.

Last year, the Government gave $255,000 for its development. A memorandum of understanding was also signed, ensuring that the university would protect the centre until April 2011.

London-based New Zealand poet Fleur Adcock says the reasoning is unclear, but Birkbeck is in the process of restructuring and the New Zealand Government does not seem to be willing to continue supporting the centre.

Paul Burns, from Friends of the Centre for New Zealand Studies, says the facility could close in five weeks' time, which puzzles him because he understands the centre is financially viable.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister John Key says a top-level meeting between the university and New Zealand's High Commission in London is being sought.